23 March 2009

Labor of Love or Extreme Birth?

Now that I'm catching up on reviews, I thought I should spread the word about New York midwife-extraordinaire, Cara Muhlhahn's memoir, Labour of Love

For those of you that saw Ricki Lake's documentary Business of Being Born, you will be familiar with Muhlhahn's as a selection of her homebirths were featured in the film. The book is a rich recounting of Cara's 30 years of experience as a midwife - she recounts her formative adolescent experiences, the homebirth of her own son and a selection of stories from the 700+ babies that she has delivered over the years.

Watching Muhlhahn in action in BOBB, for me, was one of the highlights of the film. Sensitively attending to each woman's concerns, providing unconditional and unconventional support and reassuring women at their most vulnerable was not only heartwarming but profoundly moving.

Nevertheless, in New York Magazine feature, Muhlhahn is painted as a renegade in the homebirth movement, as 'fearless' to the point in which women's lives are at risk. Her self-assuredness and confidence from years of experience is positioned as hubris and perhaps arrogant. Homebirth is positioned as 'extreme' and merely a growing 'trend' among middle-class women who have taken to birth at home like the latest Gucci handbag and those women that opt to do so as selfish and perhaps a bit clueless. This is quite a divergence from the sensitive and thoughtful portrait painted of Muhlhahn by Ricki Lake and Abby Epstein in their documentary and by Muhlhahn herself in her memoir.

Has anyone else read the book? Thoughts on the movie or the article?

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